Waitrose: Industry leading sustainability charge


Steven Hedlund

Published on
May 3, 2011

Quentin Clark, head of sustainable and ethical sourcing for Waitrose, discussed the importance of seafood sustainability and fisheries certification at an Iceland Responsible Fisheries luncheon on Tuesday, held near the Brussels Exhibition Grounds, the site of the 2011 European Seafood Exposition.

More specifically, Clark emphasized that it’s up to industry, not consumers, to lead the way. Consumers will buy sustainable seafood, but only if they’re properly educated, he said.

Clark cited the results of a consumer survey, in which 84 percent of respondents polled said they do not ask how fish is caught, 46 percent said they do not ask any questions at the seafood counter and 57 percent said price is the most important factor when purchasing fish.
“It’s extremely important to educate customers about the sustainability of seafood,” said Clark, “or they’ll just revert back to the thing they know best, which is price.”

Once consumers are aware of sustainability issues, 70 percent are more likely to buy sustainable seafood and just over one-quarter are “much more” likely to buy sustainable seafood.

Waitrose — Britain’s sixth largest food retailer, with more than 240 outlets nationwide — was a sponsor of the End of the Line documentary about overfishing. After the film was released, Waitrose’s seafood sales shot up 15 percent, exemplifying the importance of consumer education, said Clark. Even though the film was controversial and some in the industry disagreed with its message, it raised consumer awareness of sustainable seafood, which is a positive, he added.

“Industry has to drive change,” said Clark. “You can’t rely on consumers to lead the way.”

Also at the luncheon, Eggert Benedikt Gudmundsson, CEO of HB Grandi and chaiman of the Iceland Responsible Fisheries marketing group, talked about value of certifying Iceland’s fisheries.

In December, Iceland’s cod fishery was certified as responsibly managed according to the Iceland Responsible Fisheries program.  For the country’s most valuable fishery, the designation came after three years of independent, third-party verification of responsible fisheries management according to standards based on Food and Agriculture Organization-International Organization for Standardization standards. The certification was issued by Ireland-based Global Trust Certification, which is also assessing Alaska’s fisheries management system.

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